The change of the season from summer to autumn can mean a lot of different things to different people. For me, it's the anticipation of the traditional fall meet at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. Below are the entries and changes for Keeneland via Equibase.
Let's take a look at the first day of the 2012 Keeneland Fall Meet:
Race 1 - $50k Maiden Claimer, 1 1/16 Miles, Polytrack, 2yos
The meeting kicks off with a two-turn race for juveniles on the Polytrack and right out of the gate there is a horse after my own heart: 1-Admiral Kitten (3/1), a Ramsey/Maker/Leparoux colt making his debut at Keeneland on the plastic. Given the success of Kitten's Joy offspring at Keeneland since the change to Polytrack, horses like Admiral Kitten can never be ignored.
Another colt with strong synthetic pedigree is 8-Maker Reigns (8/1), an Empire Maker colt out of a Menifee mare (Can Ihvaethisdance). This horse has struggled in two prior attempts on the dirt and could be due for significant improvement with the change in footing.
Race 2 - $5k Starter Allowance, 7 Furlongs, Polytrack, 3up f&m
I used to hate Starter Allowance races but I've come to really enjoy playing them if you get a field where the horses have a great deal of diversity in terms of the races they are exiting prior to the race in question. This race is for horses that raced at a claiming price of $5,000 or less in 2011 - 2012, which always puts me on the lookout for a horse that has a qualifying race well off the page but has recently been running well against better competition.
8-At The Finish (5/2) has won three straight races, two against open company $10,000 claimers, at Arlington Park prior to shipping to Keeneland for the fall meet. There isn't a horse in the field that has been running at that well against that kind of level; At The Finish could have a big class edge in this race.
2-Mai Tai Mama (3/1) has run well recently but it's hard not to notice that her best races (by far) all occurred with Rosemary Homesiter in the irons. She'll get David Cohen for this race.
Race 3 - $10k Claiming, 1 1/8 Miles, Polytrack, 3up
There are a bunch of horses in this race that are sporting less than impressive records over synthetic surfaces in their career. I'm going to toss the majority of the dreadful performers on the plastic and focus on the proven runners and the first time surface horses.
3-Kabob (3/1) has never run at Keeneland but he put together solid races over synthetic surfaces throughout his career (13-3-3-3) and he's bringing his regular rider from Presque Isle Downs to Keeneland for the fall meet. His biggest obstacle looks to be the pace: he tends to sit back early and there is not a lot of speed in this race.
8-Smarteen Destiny (10/1) is taking a pretty big jump up in class from the conditioned claimers he's been facing at Turfway, Hoosier and Ellis, but he's shown synthetic form in the past (7-3-0-0) and he's performed well at Keeneland in past races (4-2-0-0). His win at Turfway in his most recent start is a welcome sign and his price should be nice in this spot.
9-I Come From Behind (15/1) has bounced around a lot over the course of his career and he's more apt to toss in a bad race than a good one. However, his recent races have generally come against this price level or above and he's got a win, place and show over this surface in his career (6-1-1-1). I certainly wouldn't take short odds on this horse but in a race as wide-open as this one, I could be tempted at the morning line price of 15/1.
Race 6 - Maiden Special Weight, 6 1/2 Furlongs, Polytrack, 2yo f
I'm going to be watching the action on 1-Ebbycalvin Laloosh (8/1) a first time starter by Candy Ride (ARG) out of a Benchmark mare (Proposed). Candy Ride offspring are excellent over synthetic surfaces and one of my favorite pedigree plays on the Poly.
Race 7 - Allowance N2X, 1 1/8 Miles, Turf, 3up
I really like 2-Exothermic's (9/2) last two races but he's coming into this event off of a really long layoff (Feb. 9th) and George Arnold is only so-so with horses coming off similar layoffs (10-for-81, 12% Win%, 33% In-The-Money, $1.38 $2 ROI). Tough call given the time away.
There isn't a ton of speed in this race and 10-Top Striker (12/1) may have enough early zip to clear this field out of the gate. He might be worth a light play if the odds stay square.
Race 8 - Grace 3 Phoenix, 6 Furlongs, Polytrack, 3up
A very wide open field for the first graded stakes race of the fall met with the morning line favorite at a soft 3/1 (5-Doctor Chit). There is a lot of speed in this race and I'm looking for a horse that can make a move from off that pace which puts me behind both 1-Aikenite (4/1) and 8-Lonesome Street (5/1). Both of these runners have a win over the Keeneland Polytrack, so there really aren't any surface concerns, and they both should get a perfect set-up from the horses in front of them.
Race 9 - Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades, 1 1/16 Miles, Polytrack, 2yo f
You really can't ask for a better betting race than the Alcibiades: a 14-filly field and a race about as evenly matched as you'll find in a spot like this.
2-Kitten's Dumplings (8/1) has run well in her firs two starts over the turf and should be as good, if not better, when switching to the Keeneland Polytrack. Over the last five years at Keeneland, Michael Maker is 18-for 77 when switching horses from turf to synthetics (23% Win%, 45% ITM%( with a nice, fat $2.96 $2 ROI. It's tough to ignore solid numbers like that.
9-Spring in the Air (12/1) is coming off a decent 2nd in the G2-Natalma in her last start but itsn't getting much love from the morning line maker in this spot. She won a race over the Woodbine Polytrack two races back and gets Patrick Husbands back in the saddle for this race. Hmmm.
Race 10 - Maiden Special Weight, 6 1/2 Furlongs, Polytrack, 2yo f
I'm going to finish off the day with a price play in 3-Shoe Queen (20/1). Shoe Queen is a half-sister to On Fire Baby and sports a decent win early pedigree but an absolutely fantastic synthetic pedigree. E Dubai is one of the better synthetic sires out there right now and Gilded Time is right there with him. The works have been consistent for the last two months and the price looks like it will be right for this filly.